Need advice for getting into brand strategy/marketing

Hi all,

I’m currently enrolled in a Master’s of Architecture program at Rice University and realizing that architecture is not my calling. I’m very interested in many types of design and I would most like to pursue brand strategy or creative marketing at a multidisciplinary design firm. As of right now I have no professional work experience and my undergrad is in Art History. My only marketable skills are Rhino, Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, as well as critical analysis/research/writing. I do have a design portfolio from the architecture classes I’ve taken thus far.
My plan for now is to take a class in brand strategy or marketing at the business school next semester, and to then look for summer internships at design firms that offer those services. I’m only in the beginnings of my architectural education and debating whether it would be more sensible to abandon school and try to get professional experience, or to finish my degree and then look for work when I finish in 3 and a half years. On one hand the job market is very lean right now and being able to get my foot in the door would be difficult with the little experience/education I have. On the other hand I could avoid the job market by staying in school, take my electives at the business school while earning my M. Arch, and then enter the job market with an unrelated Master’s degree.
If anyone has advice for me it would be very much appreciated! Thank you

My biggest question is why a Architecture Degree if you don’t want to use it? Seems like a waste of your time and money. I can tell as a person that has worked around big brands most of my career, it will be VERY VERY hard to get a job in brand strategy without a design degree, and even more with out a Graphic design degree. Brand Strategy is not something you just pick up right out of school. Brand Strategy is an area of the design industry you work towards and only get there through experience. It take lots of design experience to understand how brands work, what makes people connect to them, and how to build them.

So here is the advice part…I would quit Architecture, switch to a Graphic design, packaging, or Branding program, and do it right. There are plenty of great programs out there FIT, Parsons, and Pratt being just three here in NYC. From there you can get a job at a branding firm or work in a corporate studio. Your chances of achieving your dream are higher going this route.

What do you want to do in the professional world? Who do you want to be? Work backward from there. Craft a path for yourself that connectsvwhere you want to be with where you are now… Start at the finish.

As it reads now, I’m not clear on what you vision is for yourself, but it doesn’t seem like architecture is a part of it.

  1. stop the architecture degree. you are clearly headed the wrong direction there given your real interests.

  2. get clear on what you want to do in the world of “brand”. i’m not sure if you understand the terminology you are using and what skills/tasks are involved with distinct disciplines. “brand strategy/marketing” is not design. some clients are confused too and use words like “branding” carelessly/interchangeably/ignorantly. but before you invest more time and money in your education or professional pursuits you need to know that:
    • “brand identity”, “corporate identity”, “interaction design”, etc. is primarily done by graphic designers/communication designers/creatives. if you want to design logos and websites and create a “portfolio”, then please find yourself an “art” or “design” school and tell your friends you are “getting into graphic design”.
    • “brand strategy” and “marketing” is primarily done by researchers, strategists, and marketers. if you want to understand consumers, analyse data with statistics, become aware of financial issues, measure, consider how the organisation will present itself to stakeholders, plan products and messages, tell agencies/studios what direction to take, etc., then find yourself a business school or marketing program (or maybe psychology/anthropology if the research side is your particular interest) and tell your friends you are “getting into brand strategy/marketing”.
    sure, a few people and agencies and educational programs dabble in both worlds or evolve from one towards another (and many more falsely or naively claim they can/do), but you should probably start by building real expertise/deep understanding and capability in one discipline or the other. one day maybe it will be different, but the lingering reality of the job marketplace and division of tasks in most organisations today is still divided into “strategist/planner” vs “creative” -or- “brand manager/product manager” vs “designer” -or simply- “marketing” vs “design”.

  3. find the best school/program appropriate for your decision above - a graphic design program if you want to do graphic design, or a marketing program if you want to do marketing. check the sites of some of your target industries/employers and look for job titles of interest. then find the bios of people filling those jobs - where did they go to school? what did they study? what are their areas of experience?

best of luck!